The Dutch Topklasse will break out of its current heartlands of North and South Holland next season with the addition of Hoofdklasse (second division) champions Salland Deventer and runners-up Kampong Utrecht, both of whom will return to the top flight after long absences.
The expansion of the top division to twelve teams is a by-product of the Covid-19 pandemic: with several clubs choosing not to hire in overseas players this season the KNCB decided that there would be no relegation from the Topklasse, but still wanted to give teams in the Hoofdklasse the incentive of promotion.
It is likely that the competition will revert to ten teams for 2023, meaning that there will be some sharp competition at the lower end of next season’s table.
Established in 2005, Salland will be playing in the top flight for the first time, but the Deventer club is the cricketing heir of the Netherlands’ oldest surviving cricket club, albeit one where cricket is no longer played.
Kon. UD (Royal Utile Dulci) was established in 1875, and its Latin name, derived from the poet Horace and meaning ‘sweet and useful’, is a legacy of the grammar-school boys who founded it; it is also one of only two Dutch cricket clubs to hold the royal title.
UD played in the top division of Dutch cricket from 1974 until 1996 and again in 1999-2000: these were the glory days of the brothers Lubbers, Steven (who captained the Netherlands), Bart and Michiel, and UD were national champions in 1990.
In 1995 the club became the first in the Netherlands to install a turf square, at their new ground Het Schootsveld, and this complex at Colmschate, just outside Deventer, remains the only one with not one but two turf squares, the main ground having enjoyed ODI status since 2010.
By that time, however, there had been a parting of the ways, and in 2005 the cricketers established a new club, Salland, sharing the complex with Kon UD, who continue as a local amateur football club.
The Lubbers family remains at the heart of Salland cricket, with Steven’s son Victor captain of the first team, his brother Reinder beside him, and two other members of the clan, Desmond and Curtis, also having played in the Hoofdklasse this year.
In addition to winning the league title with just one defeat in the nine-match schedule, Salland also reached the semi-finals of the T20 Cup, losing to the eventual winners VOC Rotterdam.
That result will no doubt have concentrated the minds of the Deventer club on the gap between the Hoofdklasse and the Topklasse; even so, few of their new rivals will look forward to the journey to Overijssel – the local joke is that it’s much further from Amsterdam or Rotterdam to Deventer than the distance from Deventer to either – to take on Victor Lubbers’ outfit.
Top flight cricket will also return to another Dutch ODI ground next season, Kampong’s home ground Maarschalkerweerd having hosted the recent Super League series against Ireland.
Kampong was established in 1902 in the Utrecht district of the Zeeheldenbuurt (Naval Heroes’ District), its name chosen by founding families who had strong links with the Dutch East Indies; Kampong means ‘village’ in Malay and Indonesian, and the Zeeheldenbuurt had something of a village character.
Best known now as one of the Netherlands’ leading hockey clubs, Kampong is the country’s largest multi-sports club with over 6500 members, featuring football, tennis, squash and jeu de boules as well as hockey and cricket.
The cricketers first played in the top flight in 1949, remaining there for six years and returning for a 14-year spell from 1984 to 1997, during which they won the national championship three times, in 1988-89 and 1992.
That side was built around Dutch internationals Peter Cantrell (who started his career with Queensland, came to Kampong as coach in 1984 and stayed, playing as an amateur and going on to represent the Netherlands at the 1997 World Cup), Ron Elferink and Floris Jansen; a later overseas player was Jeremy Bray, who had a successful personal campaign in the relegation year of 1997 and subsequently played for Ireland before coaching Denmark and now Vanuatu.
Largely comprising locally-produced players, Kampong too may find the step from Hoofdklasse to Topklasse a pretty demanding one, but they have three Dutch academy members in Pierre Jacod, Kertan Nana and Alex Roy, while in Usman Malik they have a seasoned Topklasse campaigner with Voorburg, Excelsior, VRA Amsterdam and ACC, who will bring plenty of realism to the task of moving to the highest domestic level.
Much remains uncertain about the Dutch domestic competitions for 2022, but the return of Deventer and Utrecht to the Topklasse programme seems likely to stimulate new interest in cricket outside the Randstad, and it is to be hoped that Salland and Kampong are able to hold their own against their more established opponents.
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